Hi there! I'm blogging briefly today from a king sized bed in Las Vegas. The sun is shining, it's about 100 degrees and I have a full day of work ahead. I'll be back tomorrow to give you an update, but for today, I have a super guest post from you from none other than my handsome husband! Shaun checked out the Big Apple BBQ on Sunday (I couldn't join him since I was on a plane to Vegas) and did some reporting for TAA. Tough research project, right?! Hope you enjoy this post! I will (hopefully) be back tomorrow!
Once upon a time, in a faraway land there lived a boy named Shaun. Shaun was very fond of pork and all of its glorious splendor, and being from the land of New Jersey he was especially affectionate towards pork roll which is very popular amongst those people (for further reading: www.jerseyporkroll.com/about/) As time wore on, this boy saw many cable television shows about the food industry and read many articles and books about the dubious practices of the pig industry (Yes, Smithfield I am referring to you Rolling Stone article) This new information (new to him at least) confused and disgusted him to the point that he decided to turn his back on pork and didn’t eat it for nearly three years! That was of course until he went to Spain and was introduced to the sweet, delicacy known as jamón ibérico.
That was then and this is now. I was that boy who loved pork roll, shunned pork for three years only to return to the land of the hog after a deft push in that direction by days of eating sublime Spanish ham. Now that you have an idea of how it got to this point, let me show you the great time that was to be had at the 10th Annual Big Apple Barbeque Block Party that took place this past weekend in New York City’s Madison Square Park.
I got to the park at 11:30 which was only thirty minutes after the festival opened on Sunday and it was already bumping with live music, the smell of smoking pork, beef and turkey wafting at me from every direction and people everywhere just having a good time. Most were either on the lawn, waiting in line for ‘cue, or checking out the sponsored booths in the park. I picked up a map of the barbeque trucks and set out to find some smoky grub.
My first stop was the New York City based Rack & Soul Chicken & Ribs BBQ spot manned by John Wheeler, a former homebuilder and native of Mississippi who has been competing (and winning) BBQ contests all over the country since he swapped his hammer for a BBQ mop. With this being a local joint, the line was much shorter than most of the other stops. They were serving up baby back ribs with a side of their signature beans for $8. The portions were substantial for a barbeque festival like this and were definitely delicious. The smaller end of the ribs that I got were a bit on the dry side but past that first rib bone, the meat was tender, juicy and served as a perfect backdrop for the not too sweet and not too smoky sauce the ribs were slathered in. My only complaint was that the ribs while plentiful were not very user friendly. They were served in a nifty cardboard bowl with a compartment for the beans (which were incredibly flavorful) the whole thing was super unwieldy. I will sum up the consumption situation in as few words as possible. Saucy ribs…flimsy plastic fork…decision to use fingers for the remaining ribs…sweating from the hot and humid weather...napkins getting saturated with rib sauce…no use on rib sauce still on face…end result…people passing by seeing a man sweating with red substance covering parts of his face and hands while he figures out to do with the pile of bones he has accumulated in a public park…I just want to prove to the young families with little children passing by that I am not the Manhattan version of those Miami zombies…I do not know if I am successful.
After I find enough wet wipes to make myself presentable (I will bring my own next time, as anything being given out for free is usually not good anyway), I decide that I will seek out a pulled pork sandwich stop as those are one of my favorite BBQ foods. I pull out my map of the grounds and hunt down Martin’s Bar-B-Que Joint which is serving up Western Tennessee style whole hog fare. This joint’s food is being masterminded by pitmaster Patrick Martin out of Nashville, TN. He and his restaurant have been spotlighted on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (yes, the one hosted by the ever annoying Guy Fieri) as well as many local and national publications…all to rave reviews. While I stood in line for my pulled pork sandwich the pitmaster himself was at the helm while being filmed by a television crew. He and his crew’s enthusiasm was clearly evident as I waited on line, and you know what…it carried over into the quality of their pulled pork sandwich made from pork that has been smoked for 22 hours!
The sandwich was a nice sized pile of juicy pulled pork, cole slaw, sweet pickles and their own secret barbeque sauce all on a soft white bread bun. I loved every bite of this sandwich. It was fall apart pork, crunchy slaw, slightly sour semi-sweet pickles and the sauce…oh, the sauce, it finishes the sandwich off perfectly. It was my favorite of the day.
Ok, at this point I am an hour into the heat, pork and crowds that accompany the Big Apple BBQ Block Party. I am getting full and slightly heat stricken (maybe I am starting to look more like a zombie than I would like to realize), but I push on albeit in the shade. I take in the sights and the sounds of the festival. I stop by the This Old House stand and pick up instructions on how to build my own cornhole set, and the next booth over has Dawn Perry from Real Simple magazine demonstrating how to make s’mores. There is even a demo booth put together by Ikea showing you how to make summer cocktails out of the greatest fruit of the summer the tomato.
Unfortunately, there is a booth there sponsored by Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. Which on any other day, I would say this is fantastic. I love mayonnaise, most of the time it loves me and hey add mayo to anything and it makes it better. Today it’s 81 degrees and they are serving free samples of Hellmann’s Olive Oil Mayonnaise pasta salad. I hate Costco style promotions like this but as much as I fight it, mayonnaise is like a magnet. It was not bad but it was not good either. At the end of the day, what was I expecting from free pasta salad with semi-bootleg mayo in a park that after 9pm is mostly inhabited by hobos?
The heat is getting to me and I am exhausted and full. I just need something refreshing and then it’s time to head home. I am wandering through the park and the surrounding streets in search of something that fits the bill when I come across local restaurant Blue Smoke’s Dessert and Bake Shop tent on the Madison Avenue side of the park. They offered fruit crumbles and other mouthwatering baked goods but I went for the root beer float. Good old fashioned root beer soda with a vanilla ice cream iceberg floating in the cup. It hit the spot and the sweetness of the root beer paired so well with the barbequed afternoon that it was obviously meant to be.
My time at the 10th Annual Big Apple Barbeque Block Party has come to an end. The meat sweats are coming on, it’s over 80 degrees, shade is impossible to find and my root beer float’s comforting coolness must be conserved for as long as possible. I take a turn down Madison Avenue on my out of the park past the rest of the BBQ spots and smile because I know what awaits me at home…a cranked up air conditioner, the Mets/Yankees game on the DVR (commercials are for chumps) and hope that Sunday never ends. Barbeque festivals are awesome.
So what do you think?
Have you ever been to a barbecue festival?
Or a street food festival?
Ribs or pulled pork?